Raise the Gas Tax, Reduce the Payroll Tax

Time's Michael Kinsley explains why now is the perfect time to introduce a revenue-neutral gas tax, with the revenue used to lower the payroll.
December 18, 2008, 12pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"This idea always comes up and never goes anywhere. That's partly because of our general loathing of taxes and suspicion of Washington

But a couple of things are different now. First, we have experienced the high energy prices that people in most of the rest of the world already live with, and we know we can live with them too. Four-dollar gasoline is no longer unthinkable.

Second, this is the perfect moment for the other part of many proposals for an energy tax, which is to give the money back to people by lowering the payroll tax. The payroll tax, or FICA, collects about 15% of your wages or salary - half from you and half from your employer We could cut the FICA tax by more than half.

FICA is, in effect, a tax on job creation. It applies to the very first dollar earned by a minimum-wage worker, but most of it tops out at an annual income of about $100,000 and doesn't apply at all to income from investments. For most Americans holding jobs, FICA now takes a bigger chunk of their income than the income tax itself. And yet it rarely enjoys the tender concern of tax-cutting Republicans, who prefer to concentrate on tax breaks for capital gains."

Thanks to Mike Keenly

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Published on Thursday, December 11, 2008 in Time
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